Writer and director Ciaran McConville’s high-adventure adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s melancholic parable The Snow Queen certainly widens the story’s scope, but loses some of the timeless simplicity of the original along the way.
Bolting on plot elements borrowed from a slew of winter-themed fantasies, from Frozen to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, it’s a bemusing jumble of warrior elves, steampunk contraptions, and a Dumbledore-esque Father Christmas locked in an intractable conflict with an icy nemesis.
Parisa Shahmir makes an engaging protagonist as Gerda, an irrepressible young woman discovering her magical gifts, but it’s her childhood friend Kai – played by a chirpy Jack Wolfe – who gets the more interesting arc, a grieving boy struggling to support his family, gradually corrupted by selfishness.
Lip curled in cruel condescension, Helena Blackman’s Snow Queen cuts a suitably villainous figure, and also gets to sing the best of the show’s handful of songs, a swaggering number that sounds like a half-speed violin version of Shirley Bassey’s Goldfinger.
The undoubted star of the show, though, is spindly reindeer puppet Bancu, designed by award-winning puppetry artist Oliver Hymans and invested with an endearingly awkward personality by its three-strong team of operators.
Charlie Morgan Jones’ impressive lighting design helps to firmly locate each scene, filling the magical land of elves with a warm fireside glow, while the world of humans begins in a bleached-out grey that’s suddenly illuminated by the rippling spectrum of some gorgeously realised northern lights.